Amelia, 30, United States (Oakland, CA)

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What is your story of strength?

My strength is empathic bravery. It was a role that I filled in my family. Everyone had a lot of emotions, but not always the tools to analyze those emotions.

Emotions were these eruptions and met with a reaction but not a lot of processing. I became more curious than afraid of emotions. That is a strength that has guided me in a lot of ways. I don’t shy away from things that are uncomfortable or the things that are hard to think about, but I put myself in the emotional experience. That is one story of strength that has guided me towards my career and how I interact with people on a daily basis.

In my own experiences of being a kid, I was teased a lot by my siblings and felt isolated. I had low self-esteem and negative feelings about myself. Emotions were something that I naturally choose to go into and explore. I was curious about myself and my own emotions and the role that people had on those feelings. I started looking for things that did not confirm these external narratives about who I was.

Through my own understanding of how my siblings treated me, I could think about how they were feeling about themselves because I noticed similarities. Everyone was bullying each other – their response in return was to bully. It was all coming from their own feelings of insecurity and hurt they were projecting onto each other. The outcome of that doesn’t really go anyway.

When someone gets mad, they respond by making someone else mad. But really it is because they are hurt. Is that the best way of going about it? Instead of responding to my hurt, I started responding to their hurt as I took from their angry outburst. Through being more curious about their treatment of me, we could get to a place of ownership where they could own their thoughts and feelings. This helped me and my family make sense of our emotions. I learned to be willing to stand in something uncomfortable that scared me.

Later, studying abroad in India came at a time when I was in a shitty relationship that was unhealthy. I lost myself. It was volatile, abusive. When I was in India, it was this moment for me when we broke up and I was ready. I had to choose myself again. I used that focus and energy to zoom in on myself.

India was when I started to learn how to meditate, learned about my culture, became more connected to my Indian roots. It was a life changing experience. It pulled me out of something – I don’t know who I would have become in that relationship.

That time gave me a sense of self-efficacy, helped me regain my self-esteem, and allowed me the space to be proud of myself and where I am from. It helped me know I could cultivate all of these things in my life and be more attuned to myself. I got to revamped myself in that sense.

Learning from that, in terms of strength, you are as strong as you invest in yourself. No one is going to save you.

 

What does being a woman mean to you?

Women are the center of the family. I say that as a woman and one of four girls in my family and a lot matriarchs. When I was doing my genogram, it had this long theme of all the women in my family being the transmitters of culture, the holders of family.

Family didn’t exist until women made the space for it. Even now, the men in my family go to the center where all the women are to feel a part of the family. No one goes to see the boys to feel a part of the family; where the women are, is where family is.

A lot of that is also socialization – I think men are arrested in their social emotional development thanks to sexism. Often, women are the ones that teach those things that many girlfriends have taught their boyfriends – how to express themselves, etc. Many men only feel safe expressing their emotions to women. That says a lot about women. It says a lot of how society raises men.

Women have a lot of patience and strength. We are the teachers of life. We hold everything together. We get the short end of the stick because our society doens’t value those qualities but it wouldn’t function without them. It would function better if men joined in instead of existing in the secret confines of their relationships.

 

Can you tell me about a time when you failed or disappointed yourself?

I made a lot of poor relationship choices when I was younger. In those moments, I wasn’t able to choose what was right for me. Instead, I chose people that didn’t serve me or make me better, listened to those voices in my head that told me I deserved something when I really don’t.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in relationships. I have sacrificed my well being for the illusion of love and a false sense of security. In those things, I wasted a lot of time. I learned lessons that I feel like I didn’t have to learn…but maybe I did. Now I know what I won’t tolerate or accept.

I do feel bad – when I look back on myself and how I felt in some relationships, I feel bad for myself that I let myself be there in that space. I feel like I fail to love myself the way I really need to. Even not honoring my meditation practice, smoking… those are my failures constantly.

There is something hard about giving myself what I deserve.

 

How can women better support each other?

By having more patience with each other – truly understanding that we all want what is good for ourselves and we are all trying. Remembering each other’s humanity.

There is a lot of bullshit placed on women. We navigate it and defend ourselves in so many different ways. Even the people we feel like we can judge because they don’t have the same values as us or are different than us, know that they are doing their best. See that part of them.

As women, we are on the downside of power in so many ways. We are all up against that. When we disparage another woman or beat her down because she is not being who we want her to be or she has been socialized in a different way, know that she’s doing her best given her circumstances.

Respect everyone on their journey and accept people where they are…not where they are going, what you want from them or who you want them to be. Understanding, this is where you are and this is who you are in this moment.

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